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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  October 31, 2013 12:00am-12:30am EDT

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with j.j. abrams. he is one of the most are living writers today whose work can be seen in tv series such as "revolution" and "person of interest." he is about to take over "star wars." he has found the time to complete and interactive novel. we are glad you joined us. a contribution by author jj abrams coming up right now. jja conversation with author
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abrams coming up now. ♪ >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ >> jj abrams has conquered television with a string of series and the upcoming "almost
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human." has just taken over "star wars" from george lucas. somehow he found the time to complete and interactive novel. it is being described as an interactive puzzle between two readers sending messages in the text. let's take a look. >> he arrived knowing nothing of himself. who is he? know, because what begins at a water shell and there, and what and there shall once more began -- shall and there shallhat ends
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began. this is what happens when men reborn. jjt -- tavis: you are the best at intrigue. abrams could do a trailer for a book. to do something that makes people wonder what it was. is valid.a book how, so ion't know
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didn't attempt to describe what this is. i am glad you are here to describe it. >> 15 years ago i was at lax and i saw a book on the bench. novel.a robert ludlum i opened it up, and somebody read the book and brought me to -- it said, somebody read this book and brought me to lax. please pick me up and take me somewhere else. i thought, that was such an optimistic thing. it made me think of when i was in college and people would underline text. i would think, why is that important to them?
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is whaturred to me would happen if somebody found the book and there was some writing in it and wrote some notes in response am left the book back. what if a relationship began through people through a book? weird idea that stuck with me for a long time. lindsay found this incredible author who was really in. -- brilliant. he pitched this idea. were talking about how it would be the author of the book.
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then it would be to people writing back and forth, and it story.ove he was talking about how it would the and intrigue with actual life-and-death stakes were there is an editor who has a voice, too. there are four voices. doug is a genius, and he is the actual author of the book. it for years. he and lindsay are extraordinary. tavis: this is gorgeous. let me give you a sense of how it works. what allows your mind to work the way it does?
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up in the airport i would be like, someone left a book. mindick it up, and your immediately starts thinking, what if? feeling you are unafraid and revel in asking what if. had been my favorite stories. you think about what if they exist together. we often think about reese's peanut butter. this was the idea of taking a found object, and it will be , but to digitally celebrate the object.
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doug went above and beyond. you the publisher -- if you open it up, you can see. tavis: it's in this wonderful casing. i would love some of these royalties. it slides out of this wonderful casing. >> when you open it up, you see that it looks like a library and you realize it is between these people. you also realize they are referencing these things. it,hey are talking about
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there are notes and postcards. you realize there are these thements that help explain back story, letters written back and forth. you realize this is a love story between jennifer and eric am of the students. tavis: it's amazing. as you go through this, all they us clues. clues.e are all these >> you realize as they fall in love they are investigating the author of this book. it would cost an arm and a leg to have this re-created. is nerdy dollars, so
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it's not cheap, but given everything they did, i couldn't believe the price. i have to tell you doug wrote an extraordinary story. are you a book reader? i am still an old-school guy. i still read books. i haven all the reading to do at work, it's like working at an ice cream store. when you work at an ice cream store you realize it is the last and you want. tavis: that's why i would never work in an ice cream store. >> it's the worst. favoritelike your thing is suddenly business. i do love to read, and this reminded me of being in college when i was forced to read the is great books, and that feeling of a book being alive and in somebody's hands. tavis: this might help save the
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book industry. the book industry i know well. i own a publishing house. it's a tough is this these days. i don't think books are going anywhere. it is like newspapers. everybody is making a transition. i get that, but this is laid out in such an innovative way, even if you get it online, it makes you want to get the text. create ated to keepsake. it was so beautifully put together. part of it was to celebrate physical qualities of it, but there is something about it. it so beautifully done that when you read it you feel like you thatolding this document was alive and vital and real. it doesn't feel like you are reading a book. it feels like this thing you found that you begin to understand. you realize some notes were
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written much later. it's a puzzle. you can also just read the book. i am curious to see how many people do this,, do people go all the way through and read the notes. it's a very interesting experience. tavis: i suspect your fans won't have a problem with this. you entertain people, but you also make them think. do people want to work that hard when they read? >> i got to tell you the fun of the answer will be clear when it is on sale and if people buy it or not. the book itself is wildly compelling and a legitimate novel. we knew if the novel didn't work it is a big gimmick otherwise. i have nothing wrong with when they serve
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something greater than the gimmick. hopefully people will not feel like it is work at all but fun. story is the core of it for me. every time it felt a little oblique you realize she is sharing a bit of her history or the grad student is sharing something about himself, and you start to realize these are people you care about, and it's such an odd way to do it. knowing jj imagine abrams that this is the end-all -- the be-all end-all. there has to be integration. >> there is a little bit, but the mothership is what you are holding. are trying towe get people involved in something bigger. the story is right there. the idea that you are holding this artifact as evidence of this relationship going from the
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beginning to this love story is what you are holding. tavis: this is the first when you have done? >> yes. tavis: what did you think of the process? >> doug did all the heavy lifting, so it was awesome. tavis: did jj abrams get close enough to the writing process to decide maybe one day you will want to write? question theout people at little brown have been so wonderful that it feels like the idea of writing a book one day is incredibly appealing to me. though i don't know what it would he, my guess is the first book i would do would be a kids could do somei graphics as well. it was a blast reading this as well. it is amazing. how fun was it doing the trailer
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? >> it was amazing. the best thing was we could do it, itg, and what we saw was cool enough it felt like a compelling enough piece to put it out there. i think in 48 hours there were 2 million plus views. it happened quickly. i am just hoping people are curious and check it out because they will be happy with the book. tavis: i don't want to cover this question too much. we talked a lot about your creativity, and this clearly falls in the realm of creativity. i wonder if you might also speak to the value you have not just for creativity but for innovation. this is not just creativity. this is innovation. you have done this with some of your other work, but just talk about innovation. >> it's a tricky thing because
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we live in a moment in films where you can do anything and show anything. i think that is cool and great, but there is a certain in authentic quality that comes with that where you feel the ability to do anything ultimately leads to an empty spectacle, and i think asovation can be perceived something visually dynamic or gimmicky, for lack of a better think with this book we try to tell stories that are not as much innovative in terms of new technology or techniques and making people feel something, the idea of how do you make someone think differently?
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reading in myself i had that feeling i hope people would have which is, i am not seeing this anywhere else. to me that is what innovation is. sometimes it doesn't mean going forward or breaking new ground. it is going backward and thinking, what is the thing that is a little simpler and makes you feel. this summer there was a sense at beingeaters of just bombarded with noise and stuff and violence and cities getting destroyed everywhere you look, and i think there is a sense of is that really innovation? it is just more stuff. backnk it is good to go like to star wars and say, what is the thing that makes you feel deeper. visually i am not worried. what are the things that make you feel, this doesn't exist out there? tavis: i was on the plane
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about the article cannibalization of hollywood, that hollywood puts so much that it worked against it. does that ring true to you? >> it is almost impossible to deny there was so much supply at some point the demand is going to be threatened or go down. , but i was talking with cap the kennedy, and she remembers the one-year anniversary when raiders of the , and it was in theaters had been in theaters for a year. everything has changed so much, but it is almost like a sporting
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event. you check it out, and it's over. waysndustry needs to find to put them out and not just say, kids are out of school, so let's have a huge week. >> is there one thing about the business of hollywood that concerns you given the trajectory it is on. is something i am involved in. we are developing a number of movies that don't fall in this category. to getincredibly lucky to work in some of the story an existing film series. i hate the word franchise, but i do feel when you see studios making movies because they run way theers, that is the
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system works. the studios what they can make, and they are pretty accurate, and that really determines what films get green lit. hugely important stories are not going to be told the coasts the marketing department is honestly saying it was not a comic look before. it wasn't an existing tv show. to me that is the biggest threat in the industry. it is something i am part of. yet i think there are filmmakers doing wildly entertaining movies that happened to be based on pre-existing things, and i hope i fall into that category. you can enlighten me on this. i will not use the word
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franchise if it is not right to use. why don't you use that word? like talking about mcdonald's. it feels like it is no longer about characters or things that move you. it's about a machine. there is no question i am working with companies and studios, shareholders, and the bottom line are hugely the truth is it is show business. it.derstand i respected. however, i think it is critical movies that aren't just based on pre-existing shows or comic books are getting made. it happens. it just doesn't happen as often as it should. word: i will never use the franchise again. film series. i like that. you mentioned the word product.
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whether you like it or not, you are a brand. you want to jj abrams brand to stand for? >> that's a good question. i would hope whatever we do -- though it may be my name put out there sometimes, the company bad robot, we all work together, and i hope what we are doing is telling stories that have strong values, that have a big heart. loved as a reason i kid steven spielberg's films. even though they were often scary and sometimes mysterious and seemed dangerous, even films like schindler's list that were historical documents, his movies are always made with a deep sense of humanity, and to me that is the most important thing. i would hope people that watch the show we do that there is a
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sense of humanity, a sense of humor, and a sense ultimately of optimism, because i feel that is something i have always loved about leaving a theater feeling better and stronger and not feeling diminished. tavis: speaking of humanity, the one thing i have not asked you about is "almost human." tell me about the series. >> this is a show on fox. it is a really cool, fun cop show. it is a genre that is very familiar, and one difference is this one character has a partner who is not human. he is synthetic. futuristic cop show. they each have elements that are
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not human, and the story is how they work together in a world where their cases are unlike anything seen before. >> he is a great actor. the book is out now. want to get it. jj is right. you can have fun with all the paraphernalia you find inside that help you figure this out. this is my new project that the moment. .hank you for bringing this you were kind enough to come on our show a month ago. i thank you for your time. you are always fun to talk about. -- to talk to. i appreciate it. thanks for watching. as always, keep the faith.
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>> join us next time. we will see you then. ♪
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>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs.
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